Obama administration seeks dismissal of Virginia health care suit

[JURIST] The Obama administration on Monday filed a brief [text, PDF] urging the dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the state of Virginia challenging the constitutionality of the recently enacted health care reform law [HR 3590 text; JURIST news archive]. The suit [complaint, PDF] filed by Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli [official website] challenges the constitutionality of the individual mandate provision of the health care bill, which would require most Americans to purchase some form of health insurance by 2014 and directly contradicts a state law [text, PDF; JURIST report] purporting to prevent the enforcement of a federal mandate. In the brief, attorneys representing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius [official website] argued that the state lacks standing to challenge the provision because it "alleges no actual or imminent injury to its own interests as a state," and went on to argue:

The Court would ... have to step beyond the proper role of the Judiciary, for Virginia does not satisfy ... standing to sue. The Commonwealth asserts it has standing to vindicate a sovereign interest in its new statute purporting to exempt Virginians from any federal requirement to purchase health insurance. A state cannot, however, manufacture its own standing to challenge a federal law by the simple expedient of passing a statute purporting to nullify it. ... Virginia itself neither has sustained a direct and concrete injury, nor is in immediate danger of such an injury. In seeking to speak on behalf of unnamed citizens, Virginia brings into a judicial setting arguments that failed in the legislative arena, where a proponent need not show immediate and concrete harm.
Additionally, the brief argued that even if Virginia had standing, the law is a constitutional exercise of congressional Commerce Clause power [Cornell LII backgrounder] under Supreme Court [official website] precedent.

The Virginia General Assembly [official website] passed the ban on a federal mandate in March. The Virginia Health Care Freedom Act was the first of its kind [WP report] passed by any state, and says that no individual shall be held liable if they refuse to sign up for health care. Earlier this month, the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) [association website], a small business lobby group, joined a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] challenging the health care reform law. The NFIB joined 20 states in a suit that began in March when a complaint seeking injunction and declaratory relief was filed [JURIST reports] in the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website]. Among the allegations in the suit are violations of Article I and the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution [text], committed by levying a tax without regard to census data, property, or profession, and for invading the the sovereignty of the states. The plaintiffs also assert that the law should not be upheld under the Commerce Clause. Also in May, the US Department of Justice [official website] filed [JURIST report] a response [brief text] to a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] challenging the health care law filed in March by the Thomas More Law Center [advocacy website] on the same day President Barack Obama signed the bill into law [JURIST report].

 

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